Governmental Affairs New

Friday, December 5, 2014

Main Street bills move to Senate floor

The Senate Economic Development Committee reported our Main Street Fairness bills (Senate Bills 658 & 659) on Wednesday. The positive movement indicates the bills have support from leadership to continue discussion on the Senate floor. Bills are now on the floor in both chambers and just need a nod from legislative leadership to be approved. The bills may be able to play an important role in funding one of several projects legislators are working on, including film credits and road funding.

Note one, but two road funding options in play
Not to be outdone, both chambers have come up with their respective road funding solutions. In mid-November, the Michigan Senate passed a substitute version of HB 5477 that switches the current 19 cents per gallon fuel tax to a phased-in, flat, 15.5 percent tax on the wholesale price. Last night, the Michigan House approved a two-bill plan (HB 4539 & 5477) that phases out the Sales Tax on fuel over six years and switches the gas tax to a phased-in 13.5 percent wholesale tax on fuel. Both plans would raise about $1 billion in funds for roads, but it is still uncertain if one of the two plans or a new compromise will be approved before legislators head home in two weeks. 

House readies local preemption on wages and benefits
The House is planning to report a bill (HB 5977) next week that will prohibit any local ordinance, resolution or policy regarding wages or benefits. The bill clarifies that regulations on wages and benefits are “outside the express implied authority” of local government entities. Prohibited regulations include the requirement of a local prevailing wage, minimum wage, paid sick leave or other benefits. An amendment to include scheduling in the list of prohibited regulations is also being considered. MRA supports the bill and the amendment to include scheduling.

Treasury looking to cap accelerated filer credits

The Department of Treasury is looking to place language into HB 4920 & 4921 to retroactively cap the half of 1 percent credit that accelerated Sales Tax filers (retailers who remit $720,000 or more in sales tax per year) can claim. Current law does not include a cap on the maximum credit a retailer can receive. The bills were reported from the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday without Treasury’s preferred language. MRA opposes any attempts to change the policy on credits.

Anti-zapper pilot program appears dead

Legislation that would authorize a pilot program to install anti-zapper devices on POS systems in retail stores, appears dead in the House. SB 1100 would have allowed the Department of Treasury to require installation of these devices between the POS system and the receipt printer on every register and would store all of the transaction data for each register. MRA had concerns that the bill raised a lot of questions on POS system compatibility with the device, cost, data security, whether there will be limitations that interfere with POS updates, placing additional regulations on brick-and-mortar sales vs. online or catalog sales, and whether there is even a need for an extensive oversight system.

Retail food licensing fees to increase

The House Agriculture Committee reported a bill on Tuesday that increases license fees for retail food locations. HB 5490 is a bill pushed by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to move its reliance away from less reliable general fund dollars, increase staff within the Food and Dairy Division (specifically the Food and Dairy Safety Program) and improve technology for customers and staff. According to the department, license fees have not been adjusted since 2000 and this increase moves the program from being 26 percent fee supported to 37 percent fee supported. The following fees are increased under the bill: a free sale letter from $25 to $60 in 2015; a grocery fee from $67 to $134 in 2015, $160 in 2016 and $183 after 2016; extended retail establishment fees from $172 to $344 in 2015, $400 in 2016 and $468 in the years after.

Other important items to note:
  • Employer liability: The Senate approved legislation on Thursday that seeks to reduce employer liability concerns for hiring paroled felons (HB 5216-5218). The bills need concurrence by the House before they head to the governor’s desk.

  • Pet health regulations: HB 5095 passed the Michigan House 83-27 on Thursday. The bill requires additional pet health, safety, import and holding period requirements for large-scale breeders. MRA was successful in including exemption language for pet shops that hold adoption events into the definitions of animal control shelter and animal protection shelters. The bills impact the direct sale of dogs, cats and ferrets.

  • Federal emissions standards: On Tuesday the House Energy and Technology Committee approved legislation (SB 910) to prevent the Department of Natural Resources from enforcing the new federal emissions standards on woodstoves. MRA supports the legislation, since the new standards could impact both retailers and their customers.

  • Voluntary veteran preference: On Thursday the House approved HB 5418 to allow private employers to adopt a voluntary veteran’s preference employment policy to hire, promote or retain workers. Special rights for veterans are not subject to Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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